The scientific aspect

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    Can you imagine a thread which has five times the strength of steel (even though its density is six times less) and is twice as elastic as nylon?
    This thread, which is extremely difficult for man to manufacture, is the silk produced by the spiders we find in our gardens.  These little creatures known by the charming name of Oribitelous, or geometric spiders, have nine silk-producing glands situated in the stomach and they can produce different types of silk according to need (for the cocoon, or for spinning the web).You can discover more about  the various peculiarities and beautiful colours of different types of spider on the internet.  I find these geometric webs beside rivers and if possible choose large ones which are not damp.  The fineness, flexibility, elasticity and strength make for a promising textile -
in fact it is estimated that this fibre can support more than 450kgs per

    Studies carried out by Dr Turner, president of Bexia Biotechnologies (Canada) underline the scientific investigations on spiders and their silk:

"It is incredible that such a small creature which we find in our gardens can create  such an amazing material thanks to amino acids, the same elements which form skin and hair.  Spiders' silk is a scientific marvel, a structure of nano fibres, ready-assembled, biodegradable, with a high performance,
a tenth the diametre of a human hair, which can stop a bee  flying at 30 kms per hour without breaking.  Up to the present day, spiders' silk baffles all human efforts to manufacture a similar product."

    Spiders' silk could have numerous applications in various domains:

  • in the medical world - to make surgical threads, artery grafts and extremely fine sutures

  • for industry - cables, ropes, fishing lines, more flexible and more resistant than steel or Kevlar (as used in bullet-proof vests).

    Even finer fibre-optics, thanks to spiders' silk!  Scientists use these silken threads as a support for silicate, and after heat treatment the silk disappears leaving a fibre optic tube of only 2 nanometres in diametre.

  • for the automotive industry - tyres and textiles

  • for the textile industry -  the range  of possible applications  is immense, and your attention is drawn to the work led by the Japanese university of Gunma which has just developed a metallisation process by plasma, allowing development of a thin metallic film of the silk threads,
    without changing their characteristics. One possible application  would befor protective clothing for firemen.

  • for the leisure - high performance tennis rackets, and myriad other possible applications.

  • for the military - manufacture of flexible and light bullet-proof vests able to stop a large calibre bullet at   22 mm; and parachutists helmets.

    Could man master the fabrication of synthetic spider's silk? That is  still to be discovered. Meanwhile, after several years of research on genetic manipulation, Canadian scientists have been able to introduce the silk gene into the genetic code of goats.  A litre of milk will contain about 20 grams of  spiders' silk protein.  There remains the stage of spinning, but the subject is very difficult and solutions to the problem are secret. In Germany researchers are interested in the tobacco plant, and again by gene manipulation, the plant will  produce in its leaves a few milligrams of protein of spiders' silk.We have not yet reached the industrialisation stage, but for how long?
If one day the spider's secret falls into public hands, let us hope the spider in the garden will always find time to astonish us, and provide us with this precious and beautiful material.

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A fabric in winter



















Trapping thread of Ecribellate, the garden spider. Enlarging 10 times. Note that the central fibre winds into a ball which lengthens where necessary.